What sort of housing do we want?

Architect Alison Brooks, no slouch at housing design herself, talks in a discussion run byThe Architects’ Journal, about the appeal of Victorian homes.

‘Why are people willing to pay so much for a flat in a Victorian house?’ she asks. ‘Why are things like high ceilings and big windows and good proportions, and all these very simple, basic things that the Victorians did, deemed to be above the minimum provision right now?’

It is true that the Victorians inhabited their houses far more densely than we do now (even if they are divided into flats) but it does get to the nub of the problem with housing, as with much else today. Despite the recession, this society is still richer than it has been for almost all our history, yet we are constantly told that there are things we can’t afford. In terms of housing, it is, as Brooks points out, because we are measuring the wrong things. Valuations are done on the basis of number of bedrooms rather than on a more sophisticated basis. Just as planning seems to be over-concerned with box ticking rather than encouraging imaginative and appropriate solutions.

Housing is a tremendously complex issue. Sweeping away all regulation is not the answer, as MP Nick Raynsford points out in the debate. But it does need to be freed up, and the right kind of development encouraged.

It is a dauntingly complex area, but one that the AJ is to be applauded for tackling in its ‘More Homes, Better Homes’ campaign. It will be fascinating to see what comes next.







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